A decade after Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas first dreamed up a casual restaurant, the duo finally opened Roister this weekend. The project, whose name means to celebrate boisterously, is a major change for the two who have helped reimagine high-end dining in America with Alinea and Next. To them, casual is more a state of mind and an atmosphere than anything else. Kokonas explains in a Medium post:
Very quickly we realized that for us, casual did not mean simple. Casual is an attitude of conviviality, neighborhood friendliness and spontaneity. But it should not mean lower standards in any aspect of the restaurant.
The idea is to erase the kitchen's and restaurant's barriers, so both of the kitchens—one on the ground floor, another in the basement—are open to guests, waiting for a bar-style meal prepared by Achatz or chef Andrew Brochu, who joined the team at the Aviary in 2013. "The restaurant was mostly formed around the personality of the executive chef Andrew Brochu," says Achatz. "His cooking is influenced by American South, French and Asian techniques."
Here, the two are cooking a multicourse, $85 hearth-inspired menu, as well as à la carte options that include scallop crudo with mustard, passion fruit and charred daikon; and a sourdough pancake with mussels and baked beans. The menu also includes a section of large-format dishes like chicken that's been braised, fried and poached, and served with sunchokes and chamomile. Achatz says he's partial to Brochu's "clever twist on Southern shrimp and grits where he dovetails the American South with southeast Asian flavors, and his spin on the classic Old Sober beef and noodle soup, popular in the south."
Sticking to the theme, diners can rock out to "lively, loud, good-mood music," adds Kokonas, who asked the public, in addition to the team, to send song suggestions for the restaurant's Spotify list—though there's no word yet on which songs made the cut.
While there are some seats held for walk-ins, Kokonas hasn't shied away from his restaurant ticketing system, Tock. The hearth menu can be paid for in advance, or guests can reserve a seat for the à la carte menu for a $10 fee. The first couple of weeks are unsurprisingly sold out already, but those hoping to get on the waiting list can sign up here.
Meanwhile, the team is working on reopening their flagship Alinea, taking over the former Moto space and testing out some new concepts through a pop-up series called The Progression where the they can "bring all of the wilder ideas we have had over the years to fruition," says Achatz. "We have the ability to create something risky in the hopes that not only will people enjoy the experience but it will also provide new ideas and concepts that can be executed at Alinea when we reopen." That opening should happen in May, so stay tuned.
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